Proposed Alternative GAA Calendar

March 1st, 2017 | Queens GAA Blog, Queens GAA News

Fixture debate

The never ending story of fixture frustration

With the current debate around fixtures seesawing between priority for clubs, the power of county senior managers and the pros and cons of the “Super 8s” it has somehow been lost that small changes won’t fix what is a huge logistical issue. The traditional calendar is no longer fit for purpose and sells most elements of the association membership short – particularly players. If the games are not what they can be and if players are not at their best for club and county then the system is failing the entire membership.
I have drafted a possible overall fixture landscape that the GAA might move to which has the potential to eventually be fair to everyone. It cannot be perfect in everyone’s eyes immediately but priorities that I focussed on are as follow:

  • Create a focussed and defined period when clubs would have full access to all players to prepare for their major competitions within a planned overall season
  • Condense the county season into a shorter but worthwhile timeframe
  • Protect or enhance the status of the provincial championships
  • Create more marketable and competitive intercounty competitions
  • Increase the game to training ratio for all players

I appreciate that change is difficult and in the GAA often glacier like in happening but if there is to be a sustainable solution that serves everyone then I believe at the outset everyone has to acknowledge the following factors:

  • Clubs cannot have their county players available for every game but should for the majority of their season
  • Clubs have to be respected for continuing to engage and develop every type of member
  • County football will continue to be the GAA’s most marketable asset and everyone needs this to continue
  • The player must be at the heart of the decision making process with regards to changing the calendar – tradition has served us well but may not continue to

For me, the benefits of the calendar I am proposing are as follows:

  • Three defined and distinct phases to the club season: Preseason, league and championship
  • All Ireland club competitions complete in a calendar year
  • The Club season will run competitively for a minimum of 6 months
  • Each county game will be against similar standard teams and carry meaning
  • Provincial championships reinforced
  • Every county has a route to win Sam Maguire
  • The county season runs a minimum of 4 and ½ months and 13 meaningful matches
  • The county season runs a maximum of 6 months and 19 meaningful matches
  • There are 10 meaningful intercounty trophies on offer every season

There are other challenges not addressed in this draft. For example, if the competitive club season within each county runs from mid April until Mid October then each county must be innovative with the early part of the year when county players are focused on the county games. Maybe its an opportunity for a revival of 7s football and there might be an opportunity to market a recreational form of the game for the first time in this period. How club and county fixtures are balanced across a weekend is another challenge. This draft does not address the window for inter county u17 and u20 championships either. The solution of the latter may be midweek fixtures during April and May, during which players may not play senior football unless they forfeit the right to play u20.

This is not a comprehensive solution – It does not factor hurling in for example – but I believe it is a live working document that create a solid road map to a sustainable solution. I have looked at other sports’ models but there is nothing that approaches fitting with our environment so we have to create our own new environment.

Inter County Calendar

Using 2018 as a working template, this proposal would run the county season officially from The weekend of February 4th (Provincial subsiduary competitions begin) until July 22nd – which would be All Ireland Finals weekend.

PreSeason Competitions

Counties compete in their provincial preseason competition as constituted by each provincial council (McKenna Cup, O’Byrne Cup, etc.)
Players named on Sigerson panels are unable to play in preseason competitions until knocked out

All Ireland League Series

Teams are assigned to Senior, Intermediate or Junior Leagues and play each team once – home or away
Senior 10 teams, Intermediate 11 teams, Junior 11 teams. London included, Kilkenny & NY not included
Week 4 is a rest week for all leagues
Week 8 is a rest week for Senior only
Top 4 in the senior league are seeded for the All Ireland Senior 1/4 final
Top 4 in Intermediate and Junior leagues progress to respective championship 1/2 finals
Bottom 2 teams in the Senior and Intermediate leagues are relegated for following season
Top 2 teams in the Junior and Intermediate leagues are promoted for following season
Championship winner in junior & Intermediate grade replaces league runner up for promotion if they finish outside top 2
Senior championship winner exempt from relegation – replaced by team in position 8 of league if they are position 9 or 10
Team finishing 5th in Intermediate & Junior league will progress to championship 1/2 finals should a top 4 teams qualify for the Senior 1/4 through the prov series
First place team in each league are Senior, Intermediate and Junior League winners for the year (Trophy & Team Holiday)

Provincial Championships

Each provincial council has 4 weekends to complete their championship
Each provincial championship will produce an unseeded Senior 1/4 finalist
New York & London included in Connacht Championship
Championship winners are Provincial champions for the year

Post Season (All Ireland Championships)

Senior 1/4 finals played in week 1. Four seeded teams play the four provincial qualifiers
Junior, Intermediate and senior 1/2 finals played across week 2
All three All Irelands played the same weekend: potentially Junior & Intermediate on Sat and Senior on Sunday
All replays are abolished with the exception of the three All Ireland Finals

04/02/2018 Subsidiary InterPro – 1
11/02/2018 Subsidiary InterPro – 2
18/02/2018 Subsidiary InterPro – 3
25/02/2018 Subsidiary InterPro – 4
04/03/2018 All Ireland Series week 1
11/03/2018 All Ireland Series week 2
18/03/2018 All Ireland Series week 3
25/03/2018 All Ireland Series week 4
01/04/2018 All Ireland Series week 5
08/04/2018 All Ireland Series week 6
15/04/2018 All Ireland Series week 7
22/04/2018 All Ireland Series week 8
29/04/2018 All Ireland Series week 9
06/05/2018 All Ireland Series week 10
13/05/2018 All Ireland Series week 11
20/05/2018 Grace Week
27/05/2018 Provincial Champs 1
03/06/2018 Provincial Champs 2
10/06/2018 Provincial Champs 3
17/06/2018 Provincial Champs 4
24/06/2018 Grace Week
01/07/2018 All Ireland Post Season 1
08/07/2018 All Ireland Post Season 2
15/07/2018 Grace Week
22/07/2018 All Ireland Finals

All Ireland League Series

The following is a hypothetical structure based on finishing league positions in 2016 only
All Ireland series grading will require an agreed criteria based on league and championship performances to initiate the competitions 

  Senior           Intermediate           Junior
1 Dublin         1 Galway         1 Tipperary
2 Kerry         2 Fermanagh         2 Westmeath
3 Roscomman         3 Meath         3 Limerick
4 Donegal         4 Derry         4 Antrim
5 Mayo          5 Armagh         5 Louth
6 Monaghan         6 Laois         6 Wexford
7 Cork         7 Kildare         7 Carlow
8 Down         8 Clare         8 Wicklow
9 Tyrone         9 Offaly         9 Waterford
10 Cavan         10 Longford         10 Leitrim
            11 Sligo         11 London
Each team has 9 fixtures in 11 weeks       Each team has 10 fixtures in 11 weeks     Each team has 10 fixtures in 11 weeks
4/5 home and 4/5 away fixtures       5 home and 5 away fixtures       5 home and 5 away fixtures
Top 4 are seeded for the Senior championship 1/4 finals   Top 4 qualify for AI Intermdiate 1/2 finals   Top 4 qualify for AI Junior 1/2 finals
Bottom 2 are relegated to Intermediate      Top 2 are also promoted to senior for next year   Top 2 are also promoted to Intermediate for next year
8th finishing team can be relegated if 9/10th win the champ If 3/4th place team win champ they are promoted in place of 2nd  If 3/4th place team win champ they are promoted in place of 2nd 
              Bottom 2 are relegated to junior       Bottom 2 are relegated to junior
              If a bottom 2 team win their provincial title they retain    
              Intermediate status and 9th is relegated    


Provincial Championships

Each Provincial Council retains control of their championship and it remains a viable route to the Senior All Ireland Title
We will use the Ulster Championship as an example for demonstration purposes
Provincial championship structure is at the discretion of each provincial council but must be complete within the allotted dates

04/02/2018   Preliminary Round
11/02/2018   Four Ulster 1/4 finals across the weekend
18/02/2018   Two Ulster 1/2 finals
25/02/2018   Ulster Final

Each provincial championship will produce a qualifier to enter the All Ireland senior championship 1/4 finals (unseeded)
All counties – Junior, intermediate and Senior – participate in the provincial championships and can progress to the Senior 1/4 finals
If a provincial winner is already seeded for the 1/4 final, the beaten finalists will qualify
If both provincial finalists are already seeded, the losing 1/2 finalists will play off for a senior All Ireland 1/4 spot
If an Intermediate or Junior team win their provincial title, they qualify for the All Ireland senior championship 1/4 finals. In this event:

  • The next ranked team from their division replace the provincial winner in their original All Ireland championship semi final
  • The Provincial winner is insulated from relegation and the next placed team finishing above them in their division is relegated

All Ireland Senior, Intermediate and Junior Championship Finals

Weekend   Senior   Intermediate   Junior   Fixture Detail
01/07/2018   1/4 finals   Grace wk   Grace wk   Two double headers at Croke Park
08/07/2018   1/2 finals   1/2 finals   1/2 finals   Senior 1/2 finals Saturday and Sunday in Croke Park
15/07/2018   Grace wk   Grace wk   Grace wk   Intermediate and Junior 1/2 finals paired with each other at 2 provincial grounds
22/07/2018   All Ireland   All Ireland   All Ireland   Junior and Intermdiate finals on Saturday, Senior final on Sunday



All Ireland League series finishing positions determine seeding for 1/2 finals
Position 1 plays Position 4 and Position 2 plays Position 3
Positions 5 & below come into consideration should a junior team(s) win provincial champs


All Ireland League series finishing positions determine seeding for 1/2 finals
Position 1 plays Position 4 and Position 2 plays Position 3
Positions 5 & below come into consideration should an intermediate team(s) win provincial champs


All Ireland League Series positions 1 – 4 are seeded for the Senior Championship 1/4 final
Seeds will be drawn against Provincial championship qualifiers
1/2 pairings will be predetermined as All Ireland league placings: 1 V 4 and 2 V 3 or equivelant 



Part 2 continued… 

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